Award winning guitarist, Gene Ess, draws upon a diverse background to form his unique style. Studying classical piano, Gene's early years were filled with sounds of Beethoven and Chopin. While growing up on an US Air Force Base on Okinawa, Gene was simultaneously receiving a mix of influences: he was exposed to the indigenous music of Okinawa and to the pop and jazz music coming out of the clubs on base. All this amounted for an early obsession with music.
Considered a child prodigy by fellow musicians and instructors, Gene performed in clubs and festivals all around Okinawa at the early age of 14. After graduating high school, not satisfied, Gene left for George Mason University. There, he pursued classical music studies with Larry Snitzler, a prominent concert guitarist who discipled under Andres Segovia. Gene also studied under composer Dr. Glenn Smith working on orchestral and chamber compositions.
Downbeat magazine presented Gene's performance of Lennox Berkeley's 'Theme and Variations' with the 'Outstanding Performance Award' in 1983. Consequently, he received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. There he continued his musical quest and was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. After studies with Jerry Bergonzi and Charlie Banacos, Gene graduated from Berklee with honors in 1990 and moved to New York in 1991.
From 1991 to 2003, Gene was a member of the legendary drummer Rashied Ali's (John Coltrane) quintet, touring globally and recording a well-received album “No One in Particular”. Through this group, Gene met and played with Carlos Santana, Ravi Coltrane, Lonnie Plaxico, Archie Shepp, Matt Garrison, and Reggie Workman among many others. This group toured internationally and head-lined at major jazz festivals such as the Antibes Jazz Festival and Strasbourg Jazz Festival.
Gene's 2009 album, "Modes of Limited Transcendence," has received great reviews globally. This album received the prestigious 2010 SESAC Outstanding Jazz Performance Award. The music features original compositions by Gene and piano wunderkind Tigran Hamasyan. The album also features Tyshawn Sorey and Harvie S.
In 2012, Gene released an album featuring vocals for the first time. The album titled “A Thousand Summers” broke the top 10 national radio chart and has received great reviews internationally. The music features Nicki Parrott on vocals and beautiful songs from the jazz canon carefully arranged by Gene and Thomson Kneeland. The album release concert was performed at the Blue Note, NYC in February of 2012 to a full-house and enthusiastic audience.
Gene is a veteran member of the NYC jazz scene and can be heard at venues such as Blue Note, the 55 Bar, I-Beam, Bar Next Door, Shrine, ShapeShifter Lab, and many others. In August of 2012, Gene completed a residency at ShapeShifter Lab with his new project, Fractal Attraction. This project features new original music composed for voice and guitar as frontline. The band entered the studio in December of 2012 and recorded the new album "Fractal Attraction". The album CD release performance is scheduled for May 8, 2013 at ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn. The Manhattan release will be at the 55 Bar on April 15, 2013.
Gene is also a member of a NYC music/arts collective – the Kettle. The collective will present member concerts, private instruction, group workshops, and look to work with other like-minded international and domestic music collectives in intellectual and artistic exchange.
Over his career, Gene has performed and recorded with many wonderful musicians. Some are Dave Liebman, Al Foster, Rashied Ali, Gene Jackson, Slide Hampton, Carlos Santana, Archie Shepp, Reggie Workman, Donny McCaslin, Tigran Hamasyan, Rudy Royston, and Ravi Coltrane.